mostar
Meetologue 2015

BRIDGING THE GAP

Diving competitions from the Old bridge into the Neretva river hold a tradition of nearly four and a half centuries. It was back in 1566, when the bridge was first built, that the first divers to ever leap off the bridge tested their manhood from a height of 21 metres. The tradition never died down and Mostar is now central to the world famous Red Bull Cliff Diving spectacle, which gives the town a special recognition. The diving ties together the spirit and heart of the city: the famous stone bridge and the Neretva river.

The initiative to build the bridge came from none other than Suleiman the Magnificent. Legend has it that its builder, Mimar Hajrudin, who was the student of Sinan, a famous architect of the Ottoman era, left Mostar the day before it was built, as he was afraid the bridge would colapse. Not only did it survive Mimar Hajrudin’s disbelief, but it also survived the centuries that followed, until it was completely destroyed by the war in 1993. A total of 86 grenades thrown by Croatian forces sent the huge mass of stone falling into the river. It was an event that shook the world, not only because Mostar lost a piece of priceless heritage, but also because it was the death blow to a city in which Serbs, Muslims and Croats had lived in coexistence for decades.

In 2004 a “new old” bridge was built as an exact copy of the old one and is today listed as a Unesco World Heritage site. It represents a symbol of reconciliation and hope for a peaceful cohabitation of different cultures, etnic values and religions, which were divided by the catastrophic war.

DID YOU KNOW?
Mostar Bruce Lee statue

The Mostar statue was the first public monument to Bruce Lee anywhere in the world, with one being unveiled in Hong Kong a day later to mark what would have been the Chinese star’s 65th birthday.

The statue project was spearheaded by the Mostar Urban Movement youth group, who saw it as “an attempt to question symbols, old and new, by mixing up high grandeur with mass culture and kung fu”. Bruce Lee was chosen by the organisers as a symbol of the fight against ethnic divisions. Lee, who was an American of Chinese descent and a famous martial arts actor, represented to the residents of Mostar a bridging of cultures: “One thing we all have in common is Bruce Lee.”

Kriva čuprija
Many people won’t know that the famous Mostar bridge has an older brother. On the Radobolja river, which flows into Neretva not far from the Old bridge, stands ‘Kriva Čuprija’, a small stone bridge built in 1558 that is the oldest known monument of the Turkish era in Mostar. It was supposed to be used as a prototype, as it bears an obvious resemblance to the real thing, although this is a lot bigger. A few years ago, however, it was washed away by the floods, but fortunately as a piece of cultural heritage it was rebuilt. This part of town is a romantic special venue, infused by the energy of the Radobolja river.

Mostar bazaar
During the era of the Ottoman Empire, Mostar became a centre for trade and a place where most merchants and craftsmen worked between the Old bridge and the Musala. Today it is the city’s main tourist attraction and while you stroll through the “shopping centre” you can still admire goldsmiths at work. This urban whole kept all the characteristics of the Turkish times: alongside the towers and mosques you will also find lots of small craft workshops with oriental style doors and successfully rearranged restaurants. The workshops offer numerous traditional hand built products and the restaurants numerous authentic gastronomic specialities. Thanks to international financial funds this part of town has been completely renovated and includes the gracious houses of rich merchants and landlords built in Ottoman style.

mostar

Mostar Fair
The biggest congress provider in town is Mostar Fair, which has been successfully organising their fair for almost two decades (next year will be its 20th anniversary). It is a general fair, which is quite popular in BiH, and you can get an idea of its size by looking at some of the stats – 30,000m2 and attended by 750 exhibitors from 20 countries. In parallel with this is also the organisation of the Wine and viticultural equipment fair and also the Tourism Fair. All of the seven conference rooms for accompanying events are well equiped and the ensemble reminds you of a serious congress centre, currently sufficient for 20,000 covered exhibition spaces.

Tourism
The city that lives and breathes tourism is home to some great motels, hotels and suites. According to official statistics there are over 1,300 beds in Mostar. The main challenge is making sure tourism is seasonal, but despite the huge potential of the city Mostar has poor airline connections. Similiar to other regional tourist destinations it is constantly recording a growth in visits, but the question is how to keep visitors there for more than just one day. This year they are expecting around 90,000 visits, which could dramatically increase by extending the season with congress tourism. Despite all of this you won’t be disappointed by the offer of restaurants, bars and nightlife, as long as you steer clear of the gastronomic tourist traps in the vicinity of major tourist attractions.

A city of special venues
Despite being packed with options for special events (and some might even say there are too many!) right now the local agencies hardly ever take advantage of them for congress guests. The Muslibegovic House is a case in point: it is a national monument, which houses a museum and a hotel with preserved details of Ottoman architecture. The covered garden with vivid flowers and palms is particularly interesting, perfect for receptions in case of bad weather. Of the historical buildings is also the Bishops Residence, a neorenaissance structure suitable for corporate receptions, and The Kajatz house that belongs to Turkish residential architecture and is filled with memories of the past. The Metropolitan Palace Neo-Baroque court is also Interesting and quite a few great venues can also be found outside of the city centre, such as Vila Radobolja. The exquisitely renovated Vila is run by the owners of City Hotel and is popular among wedding planners.

Local cuisine and wine roads near Mostar
When visiting Mostar, tasting trout (pastrmka) or any of the tasty Hercegovian wines from the vineyards by Neretva, such as Žilavka, Kameno vino, Vranac and Blatina, is definitely a must. Bosnia and Herzegovina is known for its quality food, which is fresh and prepared by amazing chefs, so visiting Mostar is a real treat for gourmets and Balkan food lovers. The food in Mostar, even in some of the higher class restaurants, is not expensive, so you won’t have to worry about the depth of your wallet. The city is home to simple restaurants specialized in grilled food, and they are practically on every corner. When they turn on their grills the seductive smell of čevapi will definitely stimulate your taste buds. They can be enjoyed at 10 in the morning or late at night and are served together with a special bread called somun. Mostly made out of lamb meat, čevapi go great with kajmak, but the locals like to finish their meal with some yogurt.

mostar

Kongres Vox Populi
The congress offer in Mostar is for now very unconnected and is concentrated on hotels with congress capacities, Mostar Fair and a few other DMCs. Hotel Mepas is a five star hotel in the city centre that houses a larger congress centre with space for 700 guests. The hotel is part of a big shopping centre, which besides their own spa and swimming pool is one of the advantages. Hotel Mostar is also one of the congress providers in the city and offers 3 congress halls for a maximum of 150 people. Hotel City is a pleasant business hotel, which offers a multifunctional conference room for 150 guests. The owners of the hotel also run a restaurant by the Neretva called Del Rio, a few bars and a nightclub called Pink Panther, which embellishes their congress offer. Hotel Bristol is also one of the congress providers, with two conference halls.

Some larger DMC companies in Mostar have focused their offer on incoming incentive groups, but the city is also covered by agencies from Sarajevo and Dubrovnik. What is missing are the specialized teambuilding agencies, which are hard to find and would be great to round up the offer.

When it comes to developing congress tourism, Mostar has quite a few advantages. It is very diverse, has a quality offer, good prices and great cuisine. Unfortunately the offer is scattered and has no focussed market point with a Mostar convention bureau, so its breakthrough is going to be hard and slow. It takes more than just building a hotel or a congress centre to put a destination on the international congress map – beautiful scenery is a good start, but when it comes to incentive stories in Mostar you are the one that will have to make it up.

WHAT'S HOT IN 2016

12. – 16. APRIL 2016
International Economic Fair Mostar is the most important and the most popular economic event in BiH, creating a pleasant business environment and top-quality business networking of its exhibitors and visitors by also organising round tables, conferences and events.

14. – 15. JULY 2016
From initial enthusiasm the Mostar Blues & Rock Festival has grown into a respectable event that has found its way on to the European festivals map and is one of the most significant festivals in the region.

24. – 25. JUNE 2016
Over the past three years the Mostar Summer Fest has proved it can bring the spirit of world famous festivals to the region. Sixteen bands will perform on two stages at this year’s Mostar summer fest.

31. JULY 2016
A centuries-old traditional diving event, during which competitors jump from Stari Most (Old Bridge) in the old town of Mostar. The competition drew hundreds of spectators, who sat along the banks of the Neretva river watching the competition.

24. SEPTEMBER 2016
For the second year in a row, the Old Bridge will host the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Championship, when the global diving elite will arrive in Mostar.

DESTINATION GRADE

3.62

RECOMMENDABLE MEETING DESTINATION
grade:
5 – excellent meetings destination
4 – quality meetings destination
3 – reccommendable meetings destination
2 – average meetings destination
1 – so so

NATURAL AND CULTURAL FACTORS Grade: 4,71

A great sense of attraction and adventure comes from the contrast between the Mostar valley, shaped by river Neretva, and the karst mountains. The Neretva river is the main reason for the Mediterranean climate, which pervades the whole valley. Mostar also gets its special character from the Ottoman legacy, which can be seen in all the main tourist attractions and has been under Unesco’s protection since 2005. Mostar’s surroundings are also very diverse and rich with natural and historical monuments. Among the main tourist attractions is the town of Blagaj and “Derviška tekija”, which lies at the source of the river Buna, where the Neretva canyon slices through the mountains.

GENERAL AND TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE Grade: 4,00

The roads leading to Mostar are solid and will get you from Sarajevo to the capital of Herzegovina in less than two hours. The city was once an industrial epicentre and was also the home of Soko, a hightech airplane company. Today barely any of the once renowned company names still exist, but it is nice to know that Mostar is slowly making a full recovery from the war and is now focused mainly on tourism and the service industry. War affected the overall state of the infrastructure, especially communal, but tourist workers still praise Aerodrom Mostar, which is becoming international and with its infrastructure helping the airline accessibility of the city get better each year.

TOURIST INFRASTRUCTURE grade: 4,43

The platform for tourism development is definitely the rich cultural and architectural heritage of the city. Right now, one-day tours are the prevailing type of tourism, and that can also be seen in the infrastructure. Hotel capacities are persistently getting better and are slowly adapting to congress guests. The biggest boom is happening in boutique hotels, which have been sprouting like mushrooms throughout the city. Systematic investment in tourism and destination marketing should probably showcase the advantages of congress tourism, which are currently not in the foreground. Mostar has an incredibly wide culinary offer, which is unfortunately also adapted to the average one day tourist.

MEETINGS INFRASTRUCTURE grade: 3,76

The congress offer is falling behind the actual potential of the city and consequently the standard palette of congress providers is lacking major players. Mostar is quite a renowned tourist trademark, but is practically unrecognisable on the international market. The most positive change has been with congress hotels, which are starting to introduce their congress product through weddings and maybe later on more serious events. If Mostar wants to connect providers a convention bureau is needed, and when that happens the entire offer will need thorough inventarisation.

SUBJECTIVE grade: 4,37

It is very clear that the wounds that occurred at the foot of the Velež mountain will hold memories of the absurd politics during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite that, the city is starting to look more and more like it was before the war happened. Streets packed with tourists are bringing optimism and are changing the entire destination. A fondness for congress tourism is strenghtening, but they still need to make that big step forward. Looking at prices and hospitality, Mostar is a huge competitor and has loads of potential to become a proper congress destination.

Marketing BUZZ: 3,59

From a PR aspect Bosnia and Mostar were most recognizable during the war and it is only in recent times that the true values of the city have come to the forefront, and these are the ones that are attracting tourists from all over the world. Adding to its recognizability are events like Red Bull Cliff Diving, which definitely sent a message across the world. Unfortunately the rest of the infrastructure that could be marketed is completely out of date and needs renovation and digitalisation. Information about the congress offer in Mostar is practically impossible to find in one place and providers have a lot more work ahead of them.

BEST INCENTIVE IDEAS

1. Wine tasting event
Herzegovina is one of the most important wine regions, mostly because of its Mediteranean climate. They are especially proud of their native Žilavka and Blatina wines, which can be tasted in the vicinity of Mostar. We recommend a visit to the Zdravko Rožič and Velmir Ereš family winemakers, or a hop to the centre of winegrowing at Čitluka, which also offers guided degustations.

2. Rafting on the Neretva river
An unforgettable experience not to be missed, especially for fans of extreme sports and anyone else who would like to experience direct contact with nature, is rafting on the rapids of the river Neretva. The adventure begins in Konjic, a magical town seventy kilometres from Mostar and famous for the manual processing of wood.

3. Karting Arena SpeedXtreme Mostar
Gather your team together for an exciting team building event structured around the exciting race dynamic of a karting competition.The overall goals of team building are to increase the teams understanding of team dynamics and improve how the team best works together.

4. Photo safari in Hutovo blato
Hutovo Blato is a nature and bird reserve located at this unique sub Mediterranean swamp in Europe. When you visit this unique nature park you can enjoy a series of beautiful lakes, canals and rivers that are home to over 200 types of birds, such as wild ducks, geese, coots, herons, pheasant, hawks and many other species.

5. Canoe Safari, Čapljina
An unforgettable experience not to be missed, especially for fans of extreme sports, but also for all others who wish to experience direct contact with nature, is the canoe safari on the Trebižat River. The river is very calm and quiet at the beginning of excursion routes, but later becomes fast and exhilarating.

COMPARISION WITH THE REGION

The city of sun, greenery and flowers with a Mediterranean climate is currently a sleeping congress destination that overwhelms visitors with its historical story. Mostar is a lot more than just the Old bridge and stereotypes – it has all the neccessary conditions to develop congress tourism, yet it has somehow been put in the background and overlooked as a tourist product. With more focused development, initiating a convention bureau and better connectivity with congress providers, Mostar could easily compete with Adriatic congress capitals like Sarajevo or in Dalmatia.

COOL MEETINGS

HERZEGOVINIAN JAPRAK- The dish is sometimes called Herzegovinian Japrak, sometimes collards rolls. It originates from Lebanon, Palestine and Syria and is prepared with collards and minced mint. Collards are globally considered to be among the healthiest foods and for a reason – they are low-calorie and rich in vitamins and minerals. Collards give meat a specific aroma and you will certainly enjoy this traditional dish when in Mostar.

WHO TO CONTACT

A contact point in the form of a convention bureau doesn’t yet exist, so you will have to contact one of the DMCs in Mostar.

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